• Pak-Afghan strategic agreement underway: Khar

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    Khar has said Pakistan is trying to forge a long-term strategic partnership accord with Afghanistan.

    While talking to media Wednesday after a meeting on the sidelines of UN General Assembly, Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar revealed that Pakistan was undertaking efforts for a long-term strategic agreement with Afghanistan, in order to enhance bilateral relations in a institutionalized framework. "That s what is required, and we discussed it when Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf visited Kabul", she informed.

    Ms. Khar said that the political leadership of both Pakistan and Afghanistan had established a lot of contacts in this regard and this could be the way forward. "Our military, intelligence and diplomatic contacts could go on in an institutional manner through this agreement", she said while referring to the proposed strategic partnership agreement that is likely to be finalised at next year s UN General Assembly in 2013.

    The Foreign Minister said that Afghanistan s importance as a neighbour should not be underestimated. "The fall out on Pakistan because of Afghan situation during the last 30 years is a reality, which we can t escape. Therefore, Afghanistan has been an important part of the conversation during the meetings of Pakistani entourage this year", she observed.

     Referring to the proposed agreement, she said that Afghanistan and Pakistan eventually had to strengthen their bilateral track, and the relations had to be built on mutual trust instead of concerns towards each other. "We have shown through our actions and words many times that things associated with us are incorrect", she said while acknowledging that efforts were underway to mend relations with Afghanistan.

     When her attention was drawn towards the statement of Afghan Foreign Minister, Zalmay Rasool, regarding helling by Pakistani forces into Afghanistan, she said that this was contrary to facts. "I told him during our bilateral that we are not interested in shelling. It is as distasteful for us as it is for you, but this is in reaction to something that happens on ground", she revealed.

    While giving the example of beheading of 17 Pakistani soldiers when around 200 terrorists entered Pakistani territory from the Afghan side of the border, Ms Khar said that bilateral was the best opportunity to tackle misunderstandings. "We need to address core cause of problem. We have to be solvers of the problem, which can be done by improving border controls and by improving systems by taking responsibility on either side", she suggested and called the tendency to make Pakistan a  scapegoat for everything  as inappropriate.

     On the role being played by Britain to bring Afghanistan and Pakistan closer, she said that UK was a close friend of both South Asian countries. "They have strong ties with both Afghanistan and Pakistan. They also have a historical sense and deeper understanding of the entire region. Therefore, our trilateral summit involving UK and Afghanistan was very useful", she maintained.

     On the bilateral front, she appreciated UK s strong relationship with Pakistan, and stressed that it was based on trust, "We thanked Prime Minister David Cameron, because President Zardari had asked him first for preferential market access from European Union after the 2010 floods. This access has now been provided today", she disclosed.

     Later, in another briefing, ambassador Masood Khan, said that the details of the strategic partnership agreement will be finalised during the next meeting of the foreign ministers of both countries. "Joint efforts in the ongoing war on terror, facilitating reconciliation process with Taliban as well as economic and trade ties could be the main features of this agreement amongst others", he opined.

     He said that the allegations of Afghanistan on Pakistan could be a result of misperceptions and there was a need to establish authenticity of such claims as well as strengthening intelligence sharing. "the strategic partnership agreement will have mechanisms to address all such issues", he pointed out. "We are moving in the right direction and will have to wait patiently for some concrete outcome", he remarked.

     Mr. Khan, in response to a question, said that all bilateral issues and concerns were raised in the trilateral core group meeting involving US and there was an agreement on stopping cross-border attacks from either side of the Af-Pak border. "We also discussed our relations with other neighbours and their importance in the region", he said when asked about Pakistan s concerns on India s growing influence in Afghanistan.

     On Haqqani network, the senior diplomat firmly made clear that Pakistan was not supporting any terrorist group. He said that the partnership between both Pakistan and Afghanistan had to be based on mutual respect and shared interests. "All decisions have to be made by Afghan people for their future, but Pakistan is ready to support and facilitate in whatever manner it can", he asserted.

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